Sharp set to lead from front as Rovers seek revenge over Ipswich

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FEARS that record signing Billy Sharp could miss tonight’s home game against Ipswich Town have been allayed and he will line up against the Tractor Boys.

The striker was elbowed in the ribs in an off-the-ball incident in Saturday’s home game against Portsmouth and there was talk of him not appearing in the second half, but he played on through the pain barrier.

Sharp trained with the rest of the squad yesterday and took part in a competitive practice game.

James Coppinger was still feeling the affects of the ankle injury, which ruled him out of the game at Millwall, in Saturday’s game and was substituted midway through the second half.

He, too, trained yesterday, and will feature in the Rovers squad.

Rovers are also hoping to have striker Steve Brooker, who started his first league game for the club at Millwall, available.

“The idea was for him to have an injection in his ankle and be okay for the weekend,” said Rovers boss Sean O’Driscoll. “That was why we let Waide Fairhurst join Hereford on loan.

“Steve trained on Sunday but we’ve wrapped him in cotton wool and he didn’t train today.”

Another player to sit out yesterday’s session was teenage on-loan midfielder/striker Ryan Mason, who impressed when coming off the bench.

“Ryan has a tight hamstring and is a doubt,” said the Rovers boss.

Veteran keeper Neil Sullivan is hoping to be back in contention after missing the last two games with a swollen shin.

“Neil did a little bit on Thursday and Friday but he suffered some reaction,” said O’Drisoll. “He’s trained today and if he has no reaction he’ll be back in the squad. We’ve just got to be careful because if it flares again he could be out for a couple more weeks.

Centre-back Wayne Thomas, who hasn’t played for 10 weeks due to a torn calf, again trained with the squad yesterday and could be involved tonight in some capacity.

Skipper David Norris, one of the stars of Town’s 3-2 win over Rovers at Portman Road last month, will miss the return due to ankle and knee injuries. Colin Healy will deputise in midfield.

Jason Scotland could start up front, possibly in place of Tamas Priskin, after his goal in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Barnsley at Oakwell.

Otherwise, Town are set to be unchanged for their second game in South Yorkshire in four days. They returned to Suffolk by coach on Saturday night and flew back north yesterday afternoon.

“We are doing all we can to limit any problems that may be caused by tiredness,” said Ipswich manager Paul Jewell. “It might not be ideal, but I’m sure we’ll cope well enough.”